July, school holidays. The foxcub and her brood have left the 45 degree heat of The Sandpit to return home to England; we remain in Sydney with a short trip to Kangaroo Valley. The big skies above the Hume Highway remind me why, when I first came to Australia, I fell for it – its scrubby bush, vast swathes of wilderness, desert and wide open space seemed incredibly romantic, and to emphasise why I resented living in squashy England, where the landscape looked so often grey, and was almost never untamed.
Of course, familiarity breeds contempt and now I spend a fair bit of time longing for England and its Englishness, forgetting about the grey and letting the rose-tinted glasses do their work, so now I remember living in London not as a succession of rainy days, huddling on the Tube, dodging puddles and lots of other commuters, but as years of being immersed in its cool, sophisticated confidence, creative and edgy, with the depth and beauty of hundreds of years of history to shore all that up. My sister has just spend her 40th birthday there – what I’d give to have been celebrating with her. Tomorrow are the twentieth anniversary celebrations of my year at University College, Durham, when many dear friends will be congregating in that lovely ancient city and reliving memories in the shorthand language you use with old friends.
It does make you wonder, where is home? Not, I know, that only one place has to be home. Some friends here are from overseas, and when we talk about this we differ. Several have unambiguously and firmly rooted themselves here, others find that harder and are more torn. Sometimes I prefer this home, and remember how lucky I am to have it: waking up in the Southern Highlands to a massive horizon, kangaroos outside the house and absolute silence over the valley; the train ride across the Harbour Bridge; dear friends here, newer than those uni ones, but no less important for that. Other times I switch allegiances – some event or piece of news whacks me sideways with homesickness, a need to see my parents and sister now, not in twelve months or on Skype.
In the end, though, my boys and husband are the things that root me here, however reluctantly sometimes. That and the fact that our paternal family are peripatetic and have been for a couple of generations, and that is possibly how the foxcub and family move around the world every few years with such serenity: that’s how it rolls, so embrace the pangs of dislocation.